Last year there was much public outcry (see my past posts on the subject) when the organisers of the London to Brighton Run scrapped the traditional half way rest stop on Crawley High Street in favour of a closed to the public stop at a Honda garage on the outskirts of the town. (A Honda garage mind!  A company with no connection at all with the Run and the cars taking part. Maybe it would not have been so offensive if it had been a Peugeot, Renault or even Mercedes Benz garage).

The organisers argued that the facilities available on the High Street were inadequate for the maintenance needs and comfort of the competitors. Whilst that may have been correct it would surely have been possible to use the Honda garage for maintenance (if needed) but still have the rest stop on the atmospheric High Street?  In previous years the High Street was always packed with the public who came in their thousands to get a really good close look at the cars when they stopped. In fact the whole High Street took on a carnival atmosphere. The local radio station broadcast live from the side of the road, the local Scouts did a roaring trade in tea and bacon sandwiches and the RAF cadets sold the programmes.  The Run organisers forsook all of this for a stop on a garage forecourt where the public were excluded and were unable to see much at all.  The crews did, however, have access to a plush Harrods catering facility.. The Scouts had nowhere to sell their tea and bacon rolls and pretty soon the Cadets had noone to sell their programmes to as the few dispirited members of the public who did turn up did not stay for long.

One could not help but get the feeling the organisers of the Run had decided that the public of Crawley just did not matter. Honda presumably paid for the privilege of hosting the stop, unlike Crawley High Street. And no doubt Harrods did the same to supply the catering. The Scouts, collecting for charity, would I guess have been seen as unwelcome competition. Its not unreasonable to ask whether the organisers really needed the extra income Honda and Harrods brought.  The Run is always oversubscribed. If they had additional costs they could always have put the price up. Afteral even the cheapest of the veteran cars taking part cost over £60,000. Many are worth well into six figures. Running a veteran car is not for the impoverished.

With the Run sponsored by a “Private Bank”, and Harrods supplying the catering, the unfortunate impression created was of a bunch of plutocrats enjoying their wealth with no regard for the public. Clearly that was not the case and I am sure many of those taking part were as unhappy as the public at the axing of the old High Street stop.  It would, however, have been understandable if Crawley Borough Council had decided that the disruption to their town caused by the Run was no longer acceptable if it was not going to bring any benefits to the town.

Clearly the concerted criticism last year had some impact on the organisers of the Run as this year they announced that the Run would once again pass down the High Street. The Honda garage would still host the rest stop but cars would have to stop at a check point on the High Street. It was hoped some would choose to take their rest stop on the High Street too and space was set aside for them to do so.  To show commitment to the event the Mayor of Crawley very gamely sat in her wheel chair by the check point to greet the cars as they drove down the High Street. Sadly very few stopped to allow the public to get a close look at them. This was perhaps understandable as if a car had just stopped at Honda they would lose too much time stopping again so close by. In addition the marshals seemed to signal all approaching cars to stop at the Honda garage so many presumably thought they had no choice in the matter.  Still, the Scouts, Cadets and the public were back in force on the High Street, clearly to the delight of many of the passing crews.  Maybe next year more will stop on the High Street like in the past. Or maybe the organisers will finally appreciate that without public support even long running events like the London to Brighton Run will face an uncertain future.

Almost how it used to be. Veteran Cars return to Crawley High Street. George Hudson’s US built 1903 8hp Flint leads Malcolm Ginn’s powerful 24hp 1903 Darracq to the time check point.

A big thank you to Tam Large and Mike Sewell who stopped their 1900 Clement on the High Street for a coffee and cake break. Whether they forsook the Harrods hospitality at the Honda garage I don’t know but theirs was the only car to stop for a break on the High Street in the hour I spent there. As such theirs was the only car that the public had an opportunity to get a good look at during that time.

One of the oldest cars on the run, the 1897 cart wheel clad 6hp Panhard Et Levassor of Roy Tubby. They were making very good time at this point.

Dick Shepphard’s 1901 7hp Panhard Et Levassor stops at the check point closely followed by the Pownall / Dimbelebe 1901 4.5hp De Dion Bouton vis a vis. The Mayor of Crawley Chris Cheshire looks on from the left. She gamely sat out in the cold greeting all the cars as they came through the High Street.

 

Thomas Hill driving the Caister Castle Trust’s 1902 12hp Panhard Et Levassor. The chap in the suit in the back looks somewhat underdressed!

 

Robin Morrison has a full crew for his 10hp 1904 Cadillac

 

Douglas Pope’s 1 cylinder 3.5hp 1900 New Orleans. Despite the name, this little voiturette was a Belgian design made under licence in Orleans Road, Twickenham!

 

Allan White’s very purposeful looking twin cylinder 12hp Renault Tonneau

 

The Farley’s little 1902 5hp Peugeot

 

Another Renault, Ron Walker’s 7.5hp racing two seater. The Renault F1 jackets are a nice touch for what must be one of the world’s oldest racing cars. And Renault still race 115 years on – where will Red Bull be 115 years from now?

 

Mary Crofton piloting the family De Dion Bouton 1900 4.5hp vis a vis.

 

Brian Moore driving another handsome and powerful 16hp Panhard Et Levassor, this one from 1902.

 

Geoffrey Grime’s rare 10hp Gladiator. Made in France, 80% of the cars produced were sold in the UK.

 

One of the ubiquitous Curved Dash Oldsmobiles on the run. This is Adam Barber’s 1903 model. Rugged and reliable they are a great entry level veteran car.

 

Not quite Lewis Hamilton’s car! This is the 1898 3.5hp Benz Dogcart of Nigel Safe being driven by Gordon Cobbold.

 

Flying the flag (or two) for Old Blighty is Rob Aylott in his 1903 5hp Humberette

 

Its easy to forget Scotland has a long history of making cars. Long before the benighted Linwood Imps and Avengers, Argyll also built cars near Glasgow. This is the 1901 5hp Argyll of Michael Hilditch. As with Rootes 70 years later, Argyll found out the hard way that economic success did not always follow initial enthusiasm..

 

Dirk Docx in the 1904 6hp Siddeley of Andre Convents

 

A rare German 1901 4.5hp Adler vis a , this one belonging to John Hankin

 

Philip Oldman looks the part as he navigates his 1902 15hp Mors up the High Street. 4 cylinders and a steering wheel – its almost modern!

 

Where are the horses? Ron Mellowship’s 1898 5hp Bergmann

Matthew Pellett on a 1899 De Dion Bouton Tricycle. It was these little trikes that ignited the public’s interest in motor sport. The first circuit motor races held were races for these trikes.

A non motorised interloper. This Penny Farthing bike was not going from London to Brighton!

 

Advertisements

In recent years the RAC has arranged for Regent Street, in the heart of London’s West End, to be shut to traffic on the Saturday before the London to Brighton veteran car run.

IMG_7762.JPG

Regent Street Motor Show – Veteran Car Concourse D’Elegance

 

The focus of the show was a Concourse D’elegance for some of the veteran cars taking part in the run. It presented a good opportunity for members of the public to get close to the beautiful old crocs without the need to get up at dawn on the Sunday to watch them depart from London for the coast.

IMG_7764.JPG

Genevieve, a 1904 Darracq, and star of the eponymous 1953 film that was arguably responsible for firing the enthusiasm of the public for old cars.

 

IMG_7763.JPG

Wood, brass and steel. The beauty of a veteran car.

 

It was a busy event so it was surprising so few manufacturers displayed any of their cars. Apart from Tesla, only Renault and BMW attended with their current electric cars, a Zoe and an I3.

IMG_7766.JPG

A nicely patinated Healey Silverstone. Not pretty but very fast for its time.

 

IMG_7767.JPG

A neat solution for the spare tyre which doubles as a bumper!

 

The London to Brighton Veteran Car run on the first Sunday in November is always a special treat for motoring enthusiasts. The oldest motoring event in the world, it celebrates the passing in 1896 of the Locomotives on the Highway Act that raised the speed limit from 4 mph to 14 mph and abolished the requirement for cars to be preceded by a man on foot with a red flag! Every year since, apart from during the world wars, veteran cars ( those built before 1905) make the run from Hyde Park to the seafront at Brighton. Starting at dawn the cars follow a route through South London and rural Sussex, braving many steep hills and often atrocious weather, before reaching Brighton between 11 and 5.

The traditional half way stop for coffee and tinkering is the High Street at Crawley. This is a great place to see the cars and to chat to the crews.

20121104-183403.jpg

Fortified with a cup of tea from the local Scout troop I took advantage of a break in the rain to admire the wonderful cross section of cars parked in front of The George pub. By 11 there were some 60 or so cars present with others constantly coming and going with a clank of chain or a hiss of steam. Robert Solomon’s smart 1904 Swift looks comparatively modern!

20121104-185101.jpg

Some cars looked more comfortable than others – would you want to be at the front of this “sociable” contraption with poor brakes, no seat belts and the rain in your face?

20121104-191244.jpg

The coffee stop is a good opportunity to carry out running repairs. Though where the engine is on Dr Moffat’s 1903 De Dion Bouton is anyone’s guess.

20121104-191551.jpg

And when it’s time to return to the road, make sure you have your lights on full, or at least a new wick in your lamp.. Like this 1903 De Dion Bouton that travelled all the way from France to take part in the run.

20121104-191731.jpg

Whilst many of the cars on the run are from long dead marques, others with more familiar names demonstrate their brands’ long heritage: like John Briggs’ 1903 Ford, Geoff King’s 1904 Oldsmobile and the mighty Peugeot exiting the High Street at impressive speed.

20121104-192010.jpg

20121104-192050.jpg

20121104-192143.jpg

The biggest cheers are always reserved for the oldest cars. Ron Mellowship’s 1898 Bergmann looks like a carriage in want of horses.

20121104-192324.jpg

And whist it is always nice to see near concours cars such as Lionel Bourne’s 1904 Northern below, there is something special about those with patina such as Ian Kerr’s 1903 Oldsmobile and the splendidly ancient looking 1902 Columbia of John Hanson. It may look old fashioned but its electric – more character than a G-Wizz!

20121104-192546.jpg

20121104-192706.jpg

20121104-192745.jpg

But the car I want is a De Dion Bouton. Reliable, pretty, and relatively modern to drive.

20121104-192931.jpg

Or maybe a Darracq like Genevieve from the wonderful eponymous film! Here is Simon Hutton’s nice 1904 example.

20121104-193113.jpg